Asking ‘Who does this leave out?‘ helps in evaluating options you have in your project design, in your technology choices, or in your strategy. The answer is never ‘no one’, it is always someone. AND that is ok. In fact, it is necessary. Mcdonalds leaves out people in search of fine dining. So when we cater for the vulnerable, we leave out those who are not vulnerable.
Seems obvious? Indeed it does. And yet, it rarely is in our programmes. Being clear on our focus means we need to be able to say, ‘Thanks for your feedback. Thanks for your insight. However, this project is not about you.’ It may feel harsh. But it is a generous act. Especially if we can point them to someone else who is targeting them.
Asking ‘Who has the power?’ or ‘Where does the power lie?’ is wholly different question teasing out critical insight. We can say we want listen to recipients, we can even get their feedback. However, if we just ignore what the recipient’s say and only listen to the donors, it is clear where the power lies. We can say we implement a ‘beneficiary centric’ approach. However, if we control, guard, and keep all the data about our programmes to ourselves, it is clear where the power lies. If we need to invent terms like ‘multipurpose cash assistance‘ to talk about giving people money because just saying cash is too scary or risky for some of us or our donors, it is clear where the power lies.
Again, this is quite obvious. It is not surprising. It’s sad, but not surprising. However, sometimes by changing the framing. By asking about power, we ‘see’ things differently. Sometimes it makes the answer ‘sit’ differently in our souls. Sometimes it makes us more comfortable and sometimes more uncomfortable.
We leave people out. Yes, we do. We HAVE to. Are we ok with WHO we are leaving out? Are there changes needed to include someone who we don’t want to leave out?
And yes, there is power at play in our decisions. There always is. Are we comfortable in our guts, in our souls about how the power is distributed? Are there changes needed to the distribution.
Simple questions can lead to profound questions. Simple questions can cut through our justifications.
Asking them is up to us.